By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Nov 13, 2017 at 1:03 PM

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What's in a restaurant? In this series, we ask chefs around the city to describe their restaurants in their own words and recommend three dishes that embody the best of what they offer. In this edition, we talk with Joshua Rogers of Smyth at the Iron Horse Hotel about his approach to food as well as the impact his team has on the menu.

500 W. Florida St.

(414) 831-4615

"My philosophy behind the food we do here embodies a couple of elements," says Chef Joshua Rogers of Smyth at the Iron Horse Hotel. "First, it’s about the team we have in the kitchen and building menus that are a collaborative effort. It begins with a conversation between Executive Sous Chef Alex [Lyskowicz] and I. It evolves from there and we all push out ideas. And then everyone sits down at the table, tries the dishes and we make tweaks from there.

"The process drives everyone to think about dishes and ideas; it also helps with consistency because everyone has buy-in and ownership of the dishes. Food isn’t good unless there’s love put into it, so that’s huge. People need to put themselves into the process. It’s not just me in the kitchen. My theory is: You’re only as good as your team, so why not build a solid one?

"When guests come in, I want them to feel that our menu is approachable. I also want them to have a memorable meal – something that, even after they go home, they can still taste. People often think that simple food is easy to do. But, it’s not necessarily. It’s really about bringing flavors out of ingredients in all the ways we can while maintaining their integrity. The goal is to create very approachable dishes that also offer people something unique."

1. Seafood charcuterie

Scallop and blue crab pate, octopus pastrami, smoked Manilla clams, salmon 'nduja ($16)

"During planning for one of our past menus, someone mentioned that it would be cool to do some seafood charcuterie. So, I took that to the drawing board and really started thinking about it. We also took a look around the kitchen and thought about how to use some of the ingredients we already had on hand. We wanted to do something different, out of the box, that you’re not going to see at very many restaurants."

"When I was in San Francisco, I made a scallop and blue crab pate, so we started there. The base is made from scallops, egg whites and saffron. We add blue crab and chives, then we wrap the mixture in blanched leek, poach it, press it and bake it in a water bath. I also wanted a pastrami-style something for the board. We have octopus on the menu already. We braise it, roll it into a roulade and and let the natural gelatin of the octopus hold it together. It’s rubbed with olive oil and rolled in black pepper and coriander before being grilled."

"A charcuterie board should have a number of different things: a pate, a cured meat and something smoky. So, we added smoked clams preserved in olive oil and finished with espelette. We like 'nduja and we’ve made vinaigrettes with in the past, but we wanted to feature it on the the board. And since we’re bringing salmon in, we decided to utilize the salmon bellies. We confited them to medium rare, and then we use harissa as a seasoning, rather than the more traditional seasoning."

2. Beet salad

Roasted and raw beets, house-made goat’s milk yogurt, pistachio, shaved horseradish, 25-year balsamic ($12)

"Again, it’s simple. When a guest eats it, we really want them to recognize and remember the flavors of goat cheese, citrus and beets. But, it’s about interpreting the classic combination in our own way and presenting it on a plate in a way that’s different but memorable."

"What we really love here is the yogurt we make from goat’s milk at La Clare Farms. It’s a two-day process that requires heating it to a very specific temperature, cooling it down and adding a cow’s milk starter. Then the yogurt is dehydrated and chilled until it sets. The salad features both thinly shaved raw and roasted beets dressed in Meyer lemon and honey vinaigrette. It’s finished with 25-year balsamic, pistachios for texture and freshly shaved horseradish for a bit of heat."

3. Chicken

Miller Poultry chicken three ways: sour rye fried leg, seared skin-on breast, liver mousse. Blistered farro, foraged mushrooms, bitter greens, door county cherries ($23)

"I think chicken has a bit of a stigma. People think, ‘It’s just chicken.’ But, when we put our minds to it, we can really do something a bit different. It goes back to the philosophy of creating that memorable experience of flavors and textures. In a way, this dish is one interpretation of using the whole animal."

"The plate features chicken three ways. We have the organic livers from Bell & Evans, and we use those to make a pate. Then we start with a whole chicken from Miller Poultry. We take the thigh and cure it, confit it, add aromatics and Door County cherries and make a roulade. That’s cut and rolled in a breadcrumb miche and fried. The breast is seared until crisp and served on Anson Mills farro; their grains are smaller than some farro, it’s got a great texture, and we’re cooking it very similarly to risotto, using a base of mushroom stock. To that, we add maitake mushrooms, bitter greens, and a bit more stock that almost acts as a glaze."

Smyth is open for dinner Monday through Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. Breakfast is served Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and Sundays from 6 to 10 a.m. with brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.